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What Goes Up, Must Come Down

Pride Goeth (Literally) Before a Fall

Proverbs 6:16-17

16 These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:

17 A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,

Proverbs 16:18

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.


Have you ever done something and realized that you were living out a proverb in real life? It is easy to study Proverbs and think of all the other people that you know who fit the bill of the wise–and the fools–who fill its pages. Sometimes, however, God seems to use you for the example, and that can be no fun.

When I was about twelve years old I practically lived outdoors. My family’s property contained acres of pasture and woods across which a boy could roam. A winding creek criss-crossed the land and eventually fed a catfish pond where summer afternoons could be spent in happy laziness. 

One thing I truly enjoyed on my farmland wanderings was climbing trees. There was a tall pecan near the house that promised stout limbs that could hold myself, my brother, and several cousins at once.  An ancient willow arched over the creek and from it dangled a perfect rope swing. 

Other trees were more challenging, tall ones that required a body to “shimmy” upward, hugging the trunk with arms and legs until a lower limb could be reached and the real climbing could begin. After challenging myself to various different ascents, I began to feel that there was not a tree in the world that I could not climb. 

I think I said these very words aloud to myself as I stood looking up at one of the tallest trees on the place. It was on a Saturday morning, after a hearty breakfast had been put away, and I had begun to search for another tree to tackle. Down near the creek, I found one: a tall poplar tree reaching high into a canopy where darting squirrels seemed to be mocking me.

This tree was TALL. It went many feet before there was anything resembling a limb that could be grasped. Nevertheless, the squirrels had heard my boast and it was time to climb. I grabbed the trunk in a bear hug and began to “shimmy” up the tree. Up, up, up, I went and as I began to tire, I realized how high I had risen from the ground. 

A limb about the diameter of a pencil stuck out of the trunk just above my head. Before signaling defeat, I would at least grasp this limb and…*crack*

Down I slid like a fireman on a sandpaper-covered pole, and when I reached the bottom there was searing pain as I felt my right ankle twist on a root. I lay flat on the ground and realized that my ankle was broken and I was far from the house. 

Fortunately, my grandmother had stepped outside and heard me yelling, far off down the creek. She loaned me her cane and helped me to the car, where she dumped me unceremoniously in the backseat and took off for the hospital.   

Six weeks in a cast taught me a new lesson about boasting, and the words “pride goeth before a fall” took on a whole new meaning. 

Solomon, in Proverbs chapter 6, is taking his son on a tour of the “seven deadly sins.” Here, in verses 16 and 17, he is calling young people’s attention to the sin of pride: the first of the many things that God hates, and the root cause of so many transgressions:

16 These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:–Proverbs 6:16

Sometimes we forget that God, holy Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts, is not simply disappointed by sin, He abhors and hates it. God is not an earthy father who will lecture or make passive-aggressive comments to you to make you feel guilty for not trying hard enough. God cannot abide sin–He is so holy he cannot even look upon it (Habakkuk 1:13)

By now you are beginning to see that the sin of pride may be a little more serious than the overconfidence of a foolish teenaged boy with a propensity for acting like a squirrel. Pride is something far more deadly. It is the capstone of the “seven deadly sins” as outlined here in Proverbs. C.S. Lewis shines light on the reason why:

The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility...According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.–C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity” 

The fact is, that pride–and all of the accompanying sins–are seen to be an abomination to God. Those who practice these things or harbor them in their hearts will be driven from His presence.

Lewis says that it was “through Pride that the devil became the devil,” and Jesus is continually battling the proud servants of the devil throughout His entire earthly ministry. On more than one occasion He warns the Pharisees of the paradox of pride: 

12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.–Matthew 28:32

Jesus Himself is the scandalon, the Stumbling Stone, who trips up the proud and is a snare to those who will not humble themselves before the Lord. This, according to commentator Bruce Waltke, is what makes pride so insidious a poison in the heart of man:

Pride is first because no other Vice stands in sharper opposition to Gods wisdom and fear of God than pride, and no virtue stands closer to them than humility and modesty–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”

This is the caution that Solomon gives to the sons and daughters of Israel as he continues in chapter 6. God hates:

17 A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,–Proverbs 6:17

The first of these, pride, is evidenced in a curious way: in the eyes. A proud look…the very look of the proud is offensive to the holiness of God. He warns the proud king of Assyria that his days of insolence are numbered:

12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.”–Isaiah 10:12

The arrogance of a look reveals that pride is not confined to boasting or selfish actions. The eyes can convey deep emotion and tell much about what is going on in the heart of a person. There is a feature of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that defines a type of insubordination as “silent insolence.” This is where disrespect is not confined to words, but can be seen in facial expressions, or the eyes. Of course, any parent who has ever had to interrupt their instructions to a defiant child with, "DON'T YOU GIVE ME THAT LOOK!" knows "silent insolence" when they see it.

Have you ever used silent insubordination against a brother or sister in Christ? Have you found yourself at odds with your church leadership and decided to withhold church support or not participate in aspects of the life of your church out of silent protest of programs or decisions that you did not approve? Have you enjoyed catching your pastor at a vulnerable or public moment to make an “innocent comment” about his sermon that left him hurt as you walked away? 

Christian pride can inflate you with the hot-air of self assurance–and you will float far above the place of humility that Jesus calls you to be. Pride hurts the church, for with it believers harm one another as they seek earthly advancement or admiration from each other:

Arrogance means self-exaltation over another person and violates the fundamentally equal honor of each individual.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”

It is easy, even as a believer, to become so enamored with your own opinions and experiences in the faith that they can take more importance in your heart than the One whom you wish to serve. Much of what Jesus dealt with in his exchanges with the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day concerned the human traditions and institutions that had taken the place of true worship of His Father. 

The Jews, in their sincerity and desire to uphold the “true faith” were in reality, stumbling in their pride. Pride twists your very view of truth, right and wrong–of life itself. You can become so self-assured that you you doom yourself to failure. Per Tim Keller:

Pride distorts your view of reality, and therefore you are going to make terrible decisions.–Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life”

The fate of the proud is that of the effect of gravity–and the stock market: what goes up, must come down. You can jump to Proverbs, chapter 16:

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.–Proverbs 16:18

Are there areas in your life where you find yourself clinging to bad ideas, false doctrines, or deadly habits? Often you do not realize this is even happening, until God opens your eyes through His spirit. Perhaps you realize you have been hurting someone you love for years, to finally have them tell you of the pain you have been causing. Or maybe you have been grumbling in the church over a policy disagreement–only to discover in the Word where you have been wrong, and think of all the opinions you have tried to sway.

When you life in a bubble of pride, you become more and more insulated to the reality of life in Christ as revealed in His word and in the lives of your fellow saints. Tim Keller evokes Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida:” He that is proud eats up himself.

The only way for you–for any believer–to avoid the deadly trap of pride is to seek to become more like Christ. As Paul exhorts the early church in Romans:

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.–Romans 12:3

And so arm yourself with the Word. The way to avoid the self-worship that comes with pride is to drink deep in the riches of the Gospel and the whole counsel of God. If you insist on your way at church, you had best be sure to back it up in scripture–or be willing to search the Word in humility to seek God’s will. 

Focusing on Christ, reading His Word as revealed through the ages in the Old and New Testaments will at least bring you to a place of humble admission of your need for Him to be your sure foundation. As you find in the beautiful “Christ-hymn,” the carmen christi of Philippians 2 [beautifully performed and sung here by Michael Card] the One who emptied Himself of all, in order to become your humble savior:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. –Philippians 2:5-8 



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.



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